Full recovery from a TKR with the same or better muscle strength takes 6 months to a year (usually).
I have seen people recover incredibly quickly, within a couple of months, however, this is the exception, not the rule.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “How long does it take to recover from a total knee replacement?” (literally every day).
And that’s why I’ve finally decided to dedicate an entire blog post to this very topic. So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let’s delve into this together.
Recovery Time: A General Overview
So, the million-dollar question: “How long will it take me to recover?” The answer is not as straightforward as you might think.
In general, full recovery from a total knee replacement can take anywhere from 3 months to a year. But wait, you may think, that’s quite a wide range, right? Here’s the thing: everyone is different. Recovery time depends on a whole host of factors such as your age, overall health, the quality of post-surgery rehabilitation, and even your attitude toward recovery.
If you were generally healthy before with good range of motion but primarily pain in the knee, there is a good chance you will recover faster. This is not a guarantee, but, as with most things, it pays huge dividends to be healthy and fit!
The Stages of Recovery
To make it easier to understand, let’s break it down into stages.
First Two Weeks
Right after surgery, you’ll likely stay in the hospital or surgery center for just shy of 24 hours or 2 days, depending on your health history.
Many total knee and hip replacement patients are going home within 24 hours and then receive home health physical therapy within 24-48 hours of discharge. It’s pretty crazy! It used to be that you would stay in the hospital for a few days but, nope, not anymore!
Prior to discharge, you will usually be seen by a physical therapist who will make sure you can walk with an assistive device like a walker or a cane, get in and out of bed, and get into and out of your car, as well as go up and down stairs.
Yes, you heard that right, going up and down stairs within 24 hours after having surgery. The component is well adhered to before the surgery is even finished so no need to worry about it coming loose!
Home health physical therapy usually lasts 2-3 weeks while the Aquacel, mediplex or other non-removable dressing is applied to work on increasing range of motion and strength.
After this, you are generally advised to start with outpatient physical therapy for another 6-8 weeks.
Six Weeks Post-Surgery
At this point, you’re well on your way to recovery. You’ll probably be able to do some light household chores and walk with minimal assistance. Additionally, you’ll probably be able to walk around the store, around the neighborhood, for shorter distances. Some people do recover quite quickly as mentioned before so you could be going further, it just depends.
The main thing to remember is to watch your symptoms of pain and swelling. If you notice that every time you walk a certain distance or duration of time that your pain levels spike, reduce how much you’re doing temporarily and then slowly build up to that duration/time.
By the three-month mark, you should be able to perform most of your daily activities without too much trouble, albeit with some lingering stiffness or discomfort. Heck maybe you’ll even be like this gentleman above with his dog ;).
Six Months to One Year
By six months, most people are back to doing what they love, whether that’s gardening or going for a leisurely bike ride. But remember, it can take up to a year for some people to feel “completely” recovered, where the knee feels as normal as it’s going to get.
Factors Affecting Recovery
As we mentioned before, recovery is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Many factors can influence the length and success of your recovery. For instance, age, overall health, weight, and fitness level can all play a role.
With this surgery, it’s best to slowly increase more movement over time and when practicing exercises for range of motion, to not push it to extreme pain levels. This will not make the recovery process go faster. In fact, it may slow it down due to increased pain and swelling levels.
Research has also shown that active participation in physical therapy and a positive attitude toward recovery can significantly improve outcomes. So don’t underestimate the power of your mindset during the healing process!
What is Total Knee Replacement?
You probably haven’t made it this far without knowing what a TKR is, but I thought I’d add this part because you probably didn’t know about the cement vs. no cement techniques.
In the simplest terms, it’s a surgical procedure where your worn-out knee joint is replaced with an artificial one. Think of it like changing the tires on your car – except, well, it’s a tad more complicated than that!
In 2023, when I wrote this blog post surgeons are now doing several different types of techniques. The implantation method used can be either cemented where they use a quick-drying cement that adheres the device to the bone, or non-cemented, which uses a different technique that allows for the bone to grow into the device.
The journey to recovery after a total knee replacement may seem daunting, but with the right preparation, a dedicated rehab routine, and a sprinkle of patience, you’ll be back on your feet (or foot!) in no time.
Remember, it’s not a race, but a personal journey to regain your mobility and quality of life. If you have more questions, it’s always a great idea to have a chat with your healthcare provider.
There you have it, folks! I hope this gave you a clearer picture of what to expect during your recovery journey.
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